5
Programmatic and Institutional Issues

Not all of the problematic issues identified during this review could be neatly categorized as affecting only research, assessment, monitoring, crisis response, or outreach. Several of the barriers to effective hazards mitigation influence two or more of these programmatic areas. This chapter considers three such themes that impact the full spectrum of VHP activities: human resources, integration and communication, and priority setting and accountability. Accomplishing the specific recommendations in earlier chapters will not be possible without simultaneously addressing three cross-cutting obstacles: inadequate staff who are inappropriately distributed, lack of coordination between the activities of the VHP and those of the rest of the volcanological and broader natural hazards establishment, and insufficient oversight of what individual scientists do.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Prior to the 1980 Mount St. Helens’ eruption, the VHP consisted of the HVO and a program of hazards assessments of the Cascade Range volcanoes; staff for these activities were headquartered in Hawaii and Denver, Colorado, respectively. After this eruption and the funding increase that followed, the VHP greatly increased its presence in the Cascade Range, quickly adding staff and establishing the Cascade Volcano Observatory.

Although both the GD and the WRD added new scientific staff to the VHP, they did so in different ways. The GD transferred a number of existing volcano specialists into the VHP from other USGS programs. This had the immediate benefit of quickly putting in place a team of experienced scientists, but it resulted in the hiring of comparatively few



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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program 5 Programmatic and Institutional Issues Not all of the problematic issues identified during this review could be neatly categorized as affecting only research, assessment, monitoring, crisis response, or outreach. Several of the barriers to effective hazards mitigation influence two or more of these programmatic areas. This chapter considers three such themes that impact the full spectrum of VHP activities: human resources, integration and communication, and priority setting and accountability. Accomplishing the specific recommendations in earlier chapters will not be possible without simultaneously addressing three cross-cutting obstacles: inadequate staff who are inappropriately distributed, lack of coordination between the activities of the VHP and those of the rest of the volcanological and broader natural hazards establishment, and insufficient oversight of what individual scientists do. HUMAN RESOURCES Prior to the 1980 Mount St. Helens’ eruption, the VHP consisted of the HVO and a program of hazards assessments of the Cascade Range volcanoes; staff for these activities were headquartered in Hawaii and Denver, Colorado, respectively. After this eruption and the funding increase that followed, the VHP greatly increased its presence in the Cascade Range, quickly adding staff and establishing the Cascade Volcano Observatory. Although both the GD and the WRD added new scientific staff to the VHP, they did so in different ways. The GD transferred a number of existing volcano specialists into the VHP from other USGS programs. This had the immediate benefit of quickly putting in place a team of experienced scientists, but it resulted in the hiring of comparatively few

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program new scientists to the program. The WRD, not having a large cadre of volcano specialists from which to draw, hired a number of young, recently graduated scientists. Many of these WRD hires had been trained in quantitative approaches to the earth sciences, and brought these important capabilities to the VHP. Currently, the VHP has a large number of capable scientists. However, the almost total failure of the program to hire more than a token number of new personnel over the past 15 years has created a crisis of continuity in which much of the VHP’s accumulated knowledge is in danger of being lost because of upcoming retirements. These losses, if not offset by future hires, will have serious consequences during future volcano emergencies. Because eruptions are so idiosyncratic and variable, the most valuable asset is firsthand experience with previous events. Overlap of new staff with existing staff is essential for orderly transition of duties and transfer of knowledge, not only of volcanology and associated hydrology, but also of procedures for communicating with users of information. This is especially critical in the case of VDAP, where knowledge of effective crisis management resides in the experience of a small group of scientists and technicians, many of whom may retire in the next 5–10 years. Crisis response also requires energetic people who can work long hours and intensively for long periods—sometime weeks to months. The situation is serious now but will be eviscerating in fewer than 10 years. With the loss of personnel, and no replacements, the domestic response capability is likely to collapse and programs such as VDAP could disappear. The committee believes that if the VHP does not begin to hire new staff immediately, the program will not be able to maintain response readiness. The committee suggests that the VHP begin planning for rejuvenation of its work force. This exercise should build upon the program’s strategic plan and take into account the new areas of expertise that will be needed in the future. In many ways, the importance of technicians to the VHP equals that of scientists. Successful mitigation of the effects of the eruptions of Kilauea and Mauna Loa by the HVO in the 1960s and 1970s owed as much to the expertise and creativity of the technical support team as to the accumulated knowledge of the scientific staff. When scientists at the more recently created CVO and AVO were confronted by the challenges of monitoring and responding to erupting volcanoes, it was the experience of the engineers and other technical personnel that helped

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program them cope with the steady stream of emergencies. These individuals have highly diverse backgrounds and in many cases have participated in several decades’ worth of crisis response, especially as VDAP has expanded. The lack of hiring in this area seriously threatens the well-being of the program. The committee was told of differences in scientific staffing at HVO, AVO, and CVO. Scientists are permanently headquartered at the latter two observatories, much as they are at any other USGS center. At HVO, however, a significant fraction of the research staff rotates through the observatory on three- to five-year cycles. These people, who historically transferred from other USGS programs, bring new ideas and enthusiasm to HVO and contribute to the VHP’s goals. In the past 15–18 years however, most of the scientists who came from other USGS programs remained in the VHP when they rotated back to the mainland rather than returning to their programs of origin. These people thus become permanent additions to the VHP, requiring the long-term dedication of personnel slots and salary dollars that might otherwise be used to hire junior scientists. Besides bringing in fresh and modern perspectives, junior scientists are potentially more mobile. The committee urges the USGS management to acknowledge that the VHP has high priority, so that at least some of the rotating scientist positions at HVO could be filled with new hires. At the end of their HVO tour of duty, these people could be transferred to other parts of the VHP. INTEGRATION AND COMMUNICATION In addition to the reduction in employment in the VHP, the past 20 years have seen a change in the relative importance of volcanologists from universities and from other federal agencies. Prior to 1980, the majority of research-active volcanologists within the United States worked for the VHP. Scattered groups and individuals could be found at a handful of colleges and universities, as well as at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and in the national laboratories run by the DOE. Widespread publicity about the Mount St. Helens eruption along with the expansion of global communications made the public much more aware of eruptions worldwide and led to increased student enrollments and faculty hiring in volcanology at universities in the United States and abroad. This trend contributed to a dramatic relative increase of volcanologic knowledge outside the USGS.

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program One of the implications of this changing balance is that VHP members can no longer rely solely on interactions with other program members to keep them aware of the latest developments in volcanology. Attendance at national and international conferences, participation in professional organizations, and service on editorial boards and review panels have become increasingly important means to stay abreast of how volcano science is evolving. Members of the VHP have highly variable records of involvement in these “extracurricular” activities, partly because of budget constraints and partly through apparent lack of motivation or managerial encouragement. The result is that some VHP scientists appear to have a relatively parochial or obsolete view of their field, making it more difficult for them to carry out their responsibilities effectively. Even if the number of VHP employees were to increase over the next few years, it would probably be insufficient to keep up with new techniques and with the increased flow of scientific knowledge that threatens to overwhelm the already overworked VHP staff. The resulting shortage means that the VHP will have to either reduce the scope of its mission (in conjunction with major retraining of existing staff) or increase the pool of workers who can help it accomplish program goals. Because of this situation, the committee concludes that the VHP can no longer accomplish all of its goals through in-house activities. The committee recommends that to accomplish its goals, the VHP increase its coordination and collaboration with researchers from other parts of the USGS, other federal agencies, academic institutions, and industry. Although many VHP scientists today have good collaborations with scientists outside the USGS, others appear to avoid such interactions. It is in the interest of VHP management to more strongly encourage this sort of endeavor. The VHP could take several steps to better accomplish its goals through enhanced academic collaboration. The VHP could colocate more staff and facilities at universities. Elsewhere within the USGS, colocation of offices on university campuses or mere proximity to academic centers offers excellent rewards for both sides. Examples of successful colocations are found at the University of Arizona, California State University at Sacramento, and the University of Washington. The Menlo Park office of the USGS has maintained close working relationships with students and faculty at Stanford and at the University of California, Berkeley, for more than four decades. Among the three AVO partners,

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program most difficulties appear to be caused by the large distance between the USGS office in Anchorage and the University of Alaska and State of Alaska offices in Fairbanks. The committee heard surprisingly little about cooperation between HVO and the strong volcanological program at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. Possibilities for a stronger link also exist between CVO and the University of Washington, which is currently responsible for seismic monitoring throughout the region. The committee saw a missed opportunity in the apparent failure of a recent proposal to colocate CVO with a new campus of Washington State University in Vancouver. A final communications issue surrounds the way the VHP interacts with civil defense officials. The committee heard a few comments about this aspect of the program. Senior VHP administrators explained that they felt strongly that their role was to provide scientific background necessary to help public officials make policy judgements associated with volcanic hazards, but not to get directly involved in the decision-making process itself. The committee understood and mostly concurred with the reasoning behind this separation of tasks between the VHP and the local government agencies. On the other hand, the VHP should be more aggressive in promoting the economic benefits associated with its mitigation activities, both to upper management within the Department of the Interior, and to Congress. Students The HVO, CVO, and AVO have served as informal training facilities for small numbers of students throughout the past several decades. Most of these students either have been volunteers or have come with support from their home institutions. The VHP could derive many benefits from involving more students at all levels in the daily operations of its observatories. Students can join field crews, compile and archive data, and help with public education and outreach, all while working on their own research projects. For the student, it is a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience in volcanology. HVO has long assisted small numbers of students from the mainland and from other countries to work on Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Many Latin American volcano observatories also make effective use of students. The British Geological Survey was recently successful in getting British graduate students involved in

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program monitoring the Soufriere Hills eruption on the island of Montserrat. Because many of these students are likely to be future leaders in volcanology, such programs should be expanded. Undergraduate and graduate students can participate through cooperative programs, temporary-contract hires, volunteer positions, and so forth. Postdoctoral scientists, particularly those with primary training in engineering, computer science, chemistry, or some other discipline besides volcanology can offer new ways of looking at monitoring problems. Others with backgrounds in the social sciences and public policy could help VHP scientists craft more effective crisis response protocols. A vigorous postdoctoral program not only would bring bright young scientists into the VHP, but would also forge stronger links with the university community. Extramural Grants Program Traditionally, the USGS in general and VHP in particular have differed from other federal science agencies in having almost all of their research conducted in-house by members of the organization. This arrangement worked well when the USGS budget and staff were growing. As discussed elsewhere in this report, such is no longer the case. For example, monitoring activities at observatories can take so much staff time that there is little left for the scientific investigations that may lead to new monitoring approaches. An extramural grants program (perhaps modeled after the interagency National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program) would take advantage of the talents of outside researchers in academic, government, and private institutions and focus their efforts on VHP goals. By influencing the types of projects that are approved, the VHP could direct university researchers toward those problems that would best complement ongoing program activities. The committee recognizes the challenges of implementing such a program under current budget constraints and in the absence of the infrastructure to administer it. However, an investment in this area would allow considerably more research to be carried out on problems that are most relevant to program goals.

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program Personnel Exchanges A sabbatical or Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) program that assigned VHP personnel to universities or other federal agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, the Smithsonian Institution, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, for periods of several months to a year would be another means to increase collaborations with outside entities. In exchange, university faculty on sabbatical leave could bring the latest concepts to observatories, serve on VDAP deployments abroad, or participate in outreach activities. Federal Coordination A broader communication problem exists among all of the federal agencies involved with volcano hazards research. Communication among these groups seems to be more ad hoc than systematic, with little apparent coordination from year to year as federal budget requests are prepared. This “balkanization” of U.S. volcanology results in inefficiencies and duplication of effort in the federal establishment. The VHP is urged to be sensitive to this situation and take steps to increase interagency communication whenever possible. This issue could be partially addressed by having regular meetings of volcano-related policy makers within the Washington, D.C., area, including the VHP, NASA, NSF, NOAA, FAA, FEMA, the Smithsonian Institution, and relevant offices of the Departments of the Interior, Energy, State, and Defense. The committee concludes that there is insufficient integration and communication between the VHP and other government entities involved in volcano hazards. The VHP should take steps to ensure USGS management realizes that the overall scientific goals of the program would be enhanced by such interactions. The committee recommends that the VHP improve outside communication and better integrate its programs with those of other relevant organizations and government agencies.

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program PRIORITY SETTING AND ACCOUNTABILITY Overall VHP Priorities The VHP’s Five-Year Science Plan for 1999 to 2003 outlines a wide array of activities, ranging from volcano monitoring and crisis response to scientific outreach and information dissemination. If the VHP continues to be faced with flat budgets and limited staff growth, it must prioritize more clearly among these activities. The committee urges the VHP to put in place a more formal mechanism for prioritizing its activities and seeing that they are consistent with stated program goals. A possible guiding principle would be to preferentially fund those projects that the VHP is uniquely positioned to carry out, such as volcano monitoring and long-term field studies, while leaving other functions such as small topical research projects and educational outreach to other groups inside and outside the USGS. The committee questions whether priorities have been set for study of individual volcanoes, or groups of volcanoes, within either the Cascade Range or the Aleutians. The committee gained the impression that in many cases, individual VHP scientists or small groups of scientists select the volcanoes they want to work on and that these projects may continue indefinitely. The committee is not aware that deadlines have been set for completion of these studies, or that the overall approach is more coordinated than haphazard. A major issue that underlies any discussion of VHP priority setting and accountability is the lack of a clear and consistent management structure. Depending on his or her location and their inclination, an individual VHP scientist or technician might report to one of the four observatory scientists in charge, to the head of the Western Region in Menlo Park, to the local branch chief in Flagstaff, to the VHP coordinator in Reston, or to one of various administrators within the Water Resources Division. This confusing arrangement results in part from the Geologic Division’s tradition of using rotational administrative assignments, rather than hiring or developing career administrators. Frontline VHP scientists have long been expected to serve in a managerial position for a few years and then return to continue their research. An advantage of this approach is that the people in charge retain firsthand familiarity with the issues affecting their staff. However, other scientific organizations (including the WRD) have long recognized

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program that effective research administration is commonly incompatible with the maintenance of a vigorous individual research portfolio and thus encourage a longer-term commitment to a nonresearch career. The main drawback of the current complex structure is that it creates an institutional barrier to the emergence of strong leaders. This lack, in turn, makes individual staff members unsure about who sets their priorities and makes the VHP as a whole less influential within the prioritization and budget-setting processes of the USGS and DOI. Observatory Priorities Because most staff members of the VHP report to one of the scientists in charge of the four volcano observatories, these four individuals have special responsibilities for setting, assessing, enforcing, and coordinating prioritization across the program. In the observatory environment, volcano monitoring, hazard assessment, and communication with civil authorities may be most important, but during periods of volcano unrest and newly evolving activity, volcano crisis response assumes special priority. For example, the 1983–2000 (and continuing) eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii must be monitored, but the committee suggests that the levels of funding and personnel invested in this noncrisis event should be balanced so as to not preclude other observatory studies of this still incompletely understood volcano. An important aspect of priority setting relates to the timeliness of scientific publication. As VHP priorities evolve, managers can be tempted to move a given scientist from one project to another before he or she has written up for publication the results from a previous research assignment. Scientific publication is an important end product of VHP research, not only for the needs of civil authorities but also for other scientists (both USGS and non-USGS) who benefit from additions to the literature on volcanoes and volcano products. The problem is particularly acute when unpublished studies involve volcano hazard assessments that could have a direct bearing on the safety of people and property. The committee urges that higher priority be given to the timeliness of scientific publication. As mentioned earlier, many VHP staff members do not appear to be very involved in professional associations, beyond attending meetings of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program America. Such participation can be particularly important in developing collaborations with volcanologists outside the VHP and in highlighting the importance of the VHP to the larger volcanology community. This is another area in which the committee believes that prioritization is important. Scientists in charge must give more clear direction about the balance of professional activities of VHP staff members. Scientists in charge and the rest of USGS management should encourage and reward greater involvement of VHP members in the non-USGS professional scientific community. The committee recommends that the VHP set priorities and review them periodically at all levels from program to observatories to individual performance plans. For example, the VHP should produce a prioritized list, with completion dates, for all volcanoes of the Cascade Range for which comprehensive research projects and hazard assessments will be conducted. The ongoing collaborative research program at Mount Rainier volcano serves as a good example. Rather than wait until comprehensive research projects are completed at individual volcanoes and the supporting data and research results are published in the refereed literature, preliminary or less comprehensive hazard assessments should be prepared for as many domestic volcanoes as possible, with the expectation of future revisions and publication of supporting documentation. Such assessments have recently been completed for the 10 large volcanic centers in Washington and Oregon and for several in the Aleutian Islands. Interdivisional Issues From the late 1960s until Mount St. Helens erupted in May 1980, the GD administrated the VHP and carried out all programmatic investigations. Soon after the Mount St. Helens event, VHP managers realized that scientists of the WRD, with their expertise in volcano-related hydrologic and sediment transport processes, could contribute much to VHP goals. Accordingly, the program funded a number of WRD projects, and the two divisions worked together as a single team for about 18 months. In the 1980s, disagreements between the two divisions prompted the USGS director to partition the VHP into two components. This division in effect created two programs, staffed and operated separately, based on

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program different floors of the same building. The coordination between these two parts of the program has waxed and waned in effectiveness as managers from the two divisions have changed with time. The percentage split between the divisions, however, has hardly varied, being apparently unrelated to evolving programmatic goals and opportunities (Figure 1.5). The VHP funding split between the WRD and GD has produced tensions and perceived inequities. It is questionable whether scientific investigations and results throughout the program are integrated as effectively as they could be. The VHP is a USGS program and should be operated in ways that foster seamless relationships among staff within the GD and WRD. The committee recommends that USGS management integrate the GD and WRD parts of the VHP. Annual competition for project-level funding should take place within the same arena, free from divisional setasides. Whatever solution is implemented, it must meet the needs of the program, foster both applied and process-oriented research, and appropriately reward employees for published research, assessment and monitoring studies, and public outreach. Such a shift would have to recognize the existing divisional differences in personnel practices and provide a means for orderly transition for those individuals who would change their affiliations. Another aspect of the lack of integration is that, in some respects, the VHP appears to be a budget line item rather than a program. There is competition between the observatories and the divisions. Both have personnel who report to either GD or WRD. The committee hopes that integration of the GD and WRD components of the VHP will help resolve issues of prioritization and allow for stronger centralized management. Data Access and Management The telecommunications explosion in the late 1990s has been accompanied by fundamental shifts in the way scientists view the data they gather and the way institutions such as NSF, the Congress, and the public view the use of such data collected with public funds. In the past, most such information was considered proprietary, and researchers were highly possessive of what they collected until it could be incorporated into publications. Members of some of the most collaborative scientific

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program fields, such as astronomy, particle physics, and planetary geology, were the first to reverse this pattern, posting their data to the Web, initially in a trickle but then in a flood. To make this practice work, they needed to develop protocols for formatting, documenting, storing, and interpreting the data. Volcanologists, both in academia and in the USGS, have been relatively slow to adopt this approach. As a result, data management by different observatories and different individuals within the VHP continues to be idiosyncratic and inconsistent. The main problem this creates is that it complicates attempts to do either comparative studies of different eruptions at different volcanoes or longitudinal studies of a series of eruptions at a single volcano. A second problem is that users of volcanic information, such as civil defense authorities, the press, and insurance companies, are unable to get a consistent picture of hazards and the processes that cause them. Third, poor data documentation and availability limit studies by non-USGS scientists. A fourth problem is this situation hinders collaboration with volcanologists outside the VHP. Data documentation, storage, and access are major evolving issues throughout the scientific community. Consensus is emerging that (1) public access to most data collected with public funds is essential; (2) proprietary rights of individual investigators should be respected, but the duration of exclusive rights should be limited; (3) providing documentation and access requires substantial investment of funds and personnel; and (4) neither the scientific community nor research institutions recognize or reward the production of high-quality, well-documented, publicly accessible data sets. Adherence to points 1 and 2 by the VHP and, indeed, much of the scientific community has been limited because of points 3 and 4. The reasons are obvious: lack of funds, staff, rewards, and in some cases, equipment. Examples of effective data management systems exist, such as IRIS for seismic data and UNAVCO for GPS data. However, these examples have been developed in scientific cultures where consistent data formats are more common than in volcanology. In the case of earthquake data, collection and coordinated management of information from geographically dispersed sites are essential for much of the work of the field, so motivation is high. The VHP and VDAP in particular face much more complex challenges, including working in multidisciplinary and even crisis situations of long duration.

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Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program Standardization of data management protocols and formats across observatories and VDAP deployments is essential in order to improve access for the scientific community and others. The committee believes that the potential benefits of public access outweigh the possible drawbacks of data misuse. Also at issue is the need to clarify the rights, responsibilities, and rewards for timely data posting by individual investigators, observatories, and the VHP as a whole. The committee recommends that the VHP set standards for documentation, archiving, and access policies, including the length of the proprietary period. Once the data are compatible, the VHP should link the holdings of different observatories, perhaps through a virtual data center on the Web, and make them available to other scientists and the general public. Although old data sets can be extremely valuable, transforming them to usable form can be a daunting challenge. The committee recommends a structured program of prioritized resource allocation for bringing legacy data sets to high-quality, well-documented status. The personnel performance review and rewards system within the VHP should recognize the importance of high-quality, well-documented, publicly accessible data sets. The committee has not made specific recommendations as to the timing of data release, but suggests that standards be flexible and consistent with those promoted by the National Science Foundation or those used by other portions of the USGS such as the Earth Hazards Reduction Program. The committee also does not specify the types of data that should be released. However, the committee would like to see as many data sets as possible released, including but not limited to tiltmeter, GPS, seismic, gas, and thermal data. Very recent discussions within the volcanological community about standardized data collection and dissemination, including a workshop scheduled for the IAVCEI meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in July 2000, should receive careful attention from the VHP. One of the side benefits of improved information management, especially timely access to public data, will be to enhance the leadership roles of VHP scientists within the larger volcano research community.

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